Alapin’s Folly …

It is of great comfort to us (or should be anyway) that even masters get things wrong in chess. And why shouldn’t they? After all, chess is not straight-forward, nor is it an exact science. And when that is mixed together with the human brain, (which though powerful is not infallible), mistakes will happen. However, is it very rare for a master to get things abominably wrong, as if to scorn the very game itself.

This week I would like to share one such instance with you. It is a game that I have known of for many years, and I remember analysing it for the first time in my late teens. Back then, I thought it was a super attack by White, and my appreciation of the dramatic finish was very high. Now, looking over it again, (for the first time in a couple of decades I should think … ouch …), I do not only appreciate it, but my chess taste buds tingle with excitement.

It is a testament to how my chess understanding has progressed over the years. Nowadays I do not only highly appreciate the dramatic finish of the game, but I shake my head in wonder at Black’s absolutely ludicrous play. I feel the tension as White prepares to show him the error of his ways.

The game is apparently a friendly game, between chess legend Aaron Nimzowitsch and analyst and problem composer (and no feeble player either, despite his showing in this game) Semion Alapin. You will see Alapin, playing Black, commit the most blatant chess sins. He will firstly commit his Queen in to early action — though this is not always a sin in itself, it is when coupled with neglect of development, which is his other offence. He will also grab material … for which he will pay a hard price.

Nimzowitsch, playing White, is exemplary. He develops quickly and finds optimum squares for his pieces. Move by move his advantage increases and the apprehension in the position sizzles. He gives his opponent no time to correct his errors, and pounces forcefully and precisely.

John Lee Shaw